Balance transfer credit cards can offer you an effective way to consolidate debt and reduce the interest you pay overall.
The best balance transfer cards will provide a lengthy introductory 0% APR period — anywhere between 18 to 21 months — giving you enough time to pay down most, if not all, of what you owe while there are no interest charges piling up. They also tend to charge lower balance transfer fees than other credit cards.
Read on for our reviews of the best balance transfer cards in the market today.
Our Top Picks for Balance Transfer Credit Cards of February 2023
- Best Overall: Wells Fargo Reflect® Card
- Best with No Transfer Fee: Union Bank® Platinum™ Visa® Credit Card
- Best for Fair Credit: Chase Slate Edge℠
- Best with Cash Back: Chase Freedom Unlimited®
Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards Reviews
- 0% intro APR on both purchases and qualifying balance transfers for up to 21 months (followed by 19.24%, 24.24% or 29.24%)
- Lower minimum APR than main competitors
- 3% balance transfer fee if amount is transferred within the first 120 days of account opening
- No rewards
- Foreign transaction fee
- Insurance and protection
- Cell phone protection, auto rental collision damage waiver
Why we chose it: When it comes to balance transfers, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card tops competitors in almost every way: a longer introductory period, a lower balance transfer fee and a competitive regular APR.
Wells Fargo offers up to 21 months of balance transfers and purchases with 0% APR — the longest period we saw — followed by 17.24%-29.24% variable APR. Its minimum regular APR is also lower than its main rivals.
There is a small catch. The original 0% APR balance transfer offer is 18 months, but the bank will extend that for three additional months if you make every minimum payment on time. However, given that it’s in the best interest of your credit score anyway to make all your payments on time, this added incentive could really be a win-win.
While some competitors offer 21 months without caveats, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card does stand out in other ways. First, it also offers this 21-month offer on new purchases; other cards pair the 21 months on balance transfers with shorter periods on purchases, usually 12 to 15 months.
Second, while many cards have a limited time period to make these transfers, the Wells Fargo Reflect® Card has one of the longest at 120 days from account opening; many others offer 60 or even 30. The Wells Fargo card also charges a lower balance transfer fee at 3% within that 120-day window, and 5% after that.
Finally, this card has up to $600 in cell phone protection and rental car collision waiver, plus the chance to earn some cash back in specific offers through My Wells Fargo Deals — features that are not available through most of its main competitors.
- No balance transfer fee for the first 60 days of account opening
- 15 months with 0% APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers (followed by variable APR 12.74%-24.24%)
- Minimum APR after promotional period is lower than many competitors
- No rewards
- Foreign transaction fee
- Insurance and protection
- Purchase security, cardholders can get reimbursed up to $500 if an item is stolen or damaged 90 days after purchase.
Why we chose it: The Union Bank® Platinum™ Visa® Credit Card does not charge a balance transfer fee during a certain period, a rare feature that can save cardholders money, especially those who are transferring large amounts.
Fees can really take their toll when you’re making big balance transfers. If the amount you have to transfer is high enough, the standard 3% transfer fee could limit how much you transfer. It might even end up adding to your overall debt and impact your credit utilization ratio. The Union Bank® Platinum™ Visa® Credit Card takes care of those concerns by eliminating the fee altogether when you transfer within the first 60 days from account opening.
It offers 15 months of the 0% introductory APR on both balance transfers and purchases, followed by a 12.74%-24.24% variable APR, which is lower than the majority of credit cards out there. This will be a particularly good benefit if you’re transferring your balance from a high-interest credit card.
While the promotional period is shorter than other options, having no balance transfer fee makes it valuable for people seeking to transfer large amounts and those who can pay off the full amount within that time frame. Even after it ends, the card’s variable APR range is lower than many other competitors, which can make a big difference if you’re still trying to pay off debt after the introductory period.
- 18-month promotional period with 0% intro APR on purchases and qualifying balance transfers, followed by 19.24%-27.99% variable APR
- APR decreases by 2% after spending $1,000 each year and paying on time
- No rewards
- Insurance and protection
- Purchase protection, extended warranty, auto rental collision damage waiver
Why we chose it: The Chase Slate Edge℠ provides a lengthy promotional period along with valuable resources to get cardholders’ credit scores back on track.
Although typically aimed at people who are just starting to build their credit, the Chase Slate Edge℠ also offers a good platform for improving your credit score.
It offers 18 months with 0% APR (19.24%-27.99% thereafter). Also, if you make every monthly payment on time and spend at least $1,000 a year with the card, Chase will decrease your APR until it reaches the Prime Rate plus 9.74% (which currently totals 15.99%). Note that if you already have the lowest possible APR in your first year, it won’t get any lower.
The balance transfer fee is either $5 or 3% of the total transferred, whichever is greater, if you transfer during the first 60 days of account opening. After that, it’s $5 or 5% of the balance total.
Additionally, the card’s current welcome offer could potentially raise your credit limit by $500 if you pay every bill on or before its due date for the first six months of account opening.
These features could be a great help for cardholders who want to learn how to build credit, improve their creditworthiness and also reach a lower APR by the end of their promotional period.
- Introductory 0% APR on purchases and balance transfers for 15 months, followed by 19.24%-27.99% regular APR.
- $200 bonus after spending $500 in the first three months
- 5% on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®, 3% on dining and 1.5% on everything else
- 3% foreign transaction fee
- High regular APR (19.24%-27.99%)
- Insurance and protection
- Purchase protection, extended warranty, trip cancellation insurance,rental collision waiver
The Chase Freedom Unlimited® is one of the most complete cards out there. It delivers great rewards with bonus categories (5% on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and 3% on dining and drugstore purchases) and a decent array of protection services, all without an annual fee.
Cardholders can start reaping the benefits straight away. The card offers an introductory offer of 0% APR on both balance transfers and purchases for 15 months, followed by 19.24%-27.99% variable APR. For a card with as many features as this one, this is quite a long period. It also gives a $200 bonus if you spend only $500 in the first three months.
Few no-annual-fee cards can match the 0% APR on purchases, generous bonus or long list of benefits. So, if you’re okay with a 15-month 0% interest rate period — note that it is shorter than others in this list — and prefer a card that can keep providing value long after the intro offer is done, the Chase Freedom Unlimited is worth a look.
Other balance transfer credit cards we considered
The Citi® Diamond Preferred® Credit Card specializes in balance transfers, as demonstrated by its 21-month long balance transfer promotional period, which is among the best in the market. However, when it comes to new purchases, that period is much shorter at 12 months, which is why competitors edged it out of our list.
- 21 months of 0% APR on balance transfers, followed by 17.24%-27.99% variable APR
- Lengthy four-month period from account opening to make qualifying transfers
- 0% APR on purchases lasts 12 months, followed by 17.24%-27.99% variable APR
- No purchase protection or insurance
One of Citibank’s most popular offerings, the Citi® Double Cash Credit Card is a great one-and-done option, giving back 2% on all purchases. Currently, it has an excellent introductory offer. It includes a $200 welcome bonus after spending $1,500 within the first six months of account opening, along with 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers, followed by 18.24%-28.24% variable APR. However, the lack of an intro APR on purchases left it out of our main list.
- 2% cash back on all purchases
- 18 months of 0% intro APR on balance transfers, followed by 18.24%-28.24% variable APR
- No 0% introductory APR on purchases
- Long promotional period on both purchases and balance transfers
- Cell phone protection up to $600
- Balance transfer fee is always 3% (with a $5 minimum)
- Foreign transaction fee
- No rewards
The U.S. Bank Visa® Platinum Card is a reliable balance transfer card that delivers just what’s needed. It has 18 months of 0% APR on both purchases and balance transfers (18.74%-28.74% regular APR afterwards), but its lack of added features pushed it out of our top list.
The Chase Freedom Flex℠ has a lot of perks, such as trip cancellation insurance and high cash back reward rates on bonus categories, like 5% on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards® and 3% on dining. It’s a good credit card, but its 15-month promotional period is shorter than its competitors, while its variable APR range (19.24%-27.99%) runs a bit higher.
- 5% on rotating categories each quarter
- 5% on travel through Chase Ultimate Rewards®
- Cell phone protection and rental car collision waiver
- Foreign transaction fee
- Rotating rewards require activation
The Navy Federal Credit Union® Platinum Credit Card does not charge a balance transfer fee and offers an incredibly low regular APR (9.74%-18.00%), making it convenient even after its promotional period is over. Note that Navy Federal membership is only for active or retired members of the military, their families and certain military department employees. Additionally, the introductory 0.99% APR is slightly higher than the 0% many of these cards offer.
- No balance transfer fee
- Low regular variable APR (9.74%-18.00%)
- Promotional period has a 0.99% APR, followed by 9.74%-18.00% variable APR
- Must be a Navy Federal Credit Union member to apply
Balance Transfer Credit Cards Guide
There’s a lot to know about balance transfer credit cards, even more so if you’re looking to make a big transfer that can affect your credit or your finances.
Read on to better understand what these cards are, how they work and the details that can help you make the right decision.
What is a balance transfer credit card?
Balance transfer credit cards offer low or 0% APR on balance transfers for an established period of time during which new cardholders can transfer debt acquired with other cards. These intro APR periods typically range anywhere between 18 and 21 billing cycles. Cards that don’t specialize in balance transfers typically offer shorter promotional periods or sometimes none at all.
While many of these cards charge a 5% balance transfer fee, some don’t charge these fees at all or offer a lower percentage such as 3% for a limited time.
If this is what you’re looking for, keep on reading to better understand the process; if you want a broader look at the credit card options available, check out our Best Credit Cards article.
0% balance transfer
When you transfer a balance from one card to another, you’ll have to pay interest on that balance at the new card’s APR. When you get an offer with 0% intro APR, your balance won’t accrue interest during a specified period of time, giving you a chance to pay it off without the extra charges.
How do balance transfers work?
A balance transfer is an agreement between two credit card issuers. Essentially, the issuer from the card you’re transferring to pays off your debt to the issuer you’re transferring the balance from. This transfer is subject to approval from both parties and depends on the amount and your payment history.
Keep in mind that you can’t transfer a balance between cards from the same issuer, and most require the payment of a balance transfer fee.
What is a balance transfer fee?
Most issuers will charge a balance transfer fee, which is a percentage of the total balance you’re transferring. It’s usually between 3% and 5% or $5, whichever is greater (spoiler: the percentage is almost always greater). Most cards offer a 5% balance transfer fee, but there are cards that offer 3% for a specific period of time as part of a promotion.
For example, you might transfer a $2,000 debt within the first 60 days of account opening, and your balance would end up being $2,060 (3% of $2,000 is $60) on your new card. If you transfer it at a later date when the transfer fee is instead 5%, your balance would be $2,100.
Some cards don’t charge a balance transfer fee during that period, such as the Union Bank® Platinum™ Visa® Credit Card. These are extremely rare, however, and some issuers might offset this by offering a slightly higher interest rate, such as 0.99% instead of 0%, which is the case for the Navy Federal Credit Union® Platinum Credit Card.
How long does a balance transfer take?
The waiting period for a balance transfer to take effect will vary depending on both issuers. It normally takes five to seven business days. However, you might see the change reflected on one card before the other, and it’s even possible to see the usage of both cards simultaneously on a credit report. (If that does happen, there’s no need to be alarmed, the duplication will disappear soon enough.)
What are the limits on balance transfers?
Other than the new card’s credit limit, there are no caps on the transfer amount. Nevertheless, keep in mind that the fee’s percentage might take away some wiggle room. If your available credit is $2,000 and the balance transfer fee is 3%, you’ll need to have enough available credit to transfer around $1,940, plus the $58.20 charged.
Pros and cons of balance transfer credit cards
Balance transfer cards can be a huge help when high-interest credit card debt is getting out of hand. However, these cards have some disadvantages. Here are some examples of the good and the bad when doing a balance transfer with a new card.
- Long periods without interest charges makes it easier to pay off existing debt.
- Credit cards that offer rewards or insurance can provide benefits after the intro period is over.
- It can help you consolidate debt from multiple high-interest cards, making it easier to pay off debt and keep track of payments.
- A new credit card might actually help improve your credit score by giving you a higher credit limit.
- The longer the intro period, the fewer the perks and rewards, which could make a card less useful in the future
- High interest rates when promotional periods end. This could put you at risk of even more debt if you don't pay it off in time.
- Balance transfer fees raise your overall debt. Although it's a small amount, it could make an impact if your balance is high.
- If used to acquire more purchasing power instead of consolidating debt, it could lead you further into debt.
How to choose a balance transfer credit card
Most balance transfer cards have an 18- to 21-month intro APR offer, but there’s a lot more to look at when you’re making your choice. Which card is right for you depends on your personal finances, payment plans and what you expect to get from it in the future.
1. Compare introductory period length
If you’re looking specifically for 0% APR credit cards, the most important factor to consider is the length of that offer and whether it’s enough time to pay off most, if not the entirety, of your debt.
Regular cards often offer an introductory low-APR period on both purchases and balance transfers as well. However, they normally range between nine and 15 months, while specialized balance transfer cards offer anywhere between 18 and 21 months.
A good point of comparison is the introductory period for new purchases. While most balance transfer-focused credit cards will offer the same 18 to 21 months with 0% APR on balance transfers, some will pair this with a shorter 12- to 15-month period on purchases. Those with longer periods on purchases can often be the better option.
2. Check balance transfer fee amount and transfer time limit
Most balance transfer cards charge a fee when you transfer debt, typically between 3% and 5%. That difference can be huge if you have a large balance to transfer, so it’s important to calculate just how much that will end up costing you. In some cases, it might be enough to impact your card choice.
Also, some issuers offer the lower 3% only for a limited time, from 30 to 120 days — an important detail to consider if you can’t make the transfer immediately.
Additionally, some cards’ entire intro offer will be subject to a time limit. For example, some could require that you make the transfer within 60 days (or whichever time limit applies) to enjoy the 0% APR for the announced period, but if you make it afterwards, you’ll get the regular APR.
3. Consider other fees
If you’re looking for relief from credit card debt, the last thing you want is additional fees raising your balance.
First, you might want to get a no annual fee card (annual fees are very rare among balance transfer cards), as some of these fees can be a huge burden down the road.
Second, look at over-the-limit fees. Some issuers allow you to exceed your limit to avoid declining a purchase, but could charge a fee for it. After a balance transfer, you might have little available credit remaining, which could make you more vulnerable to accidentally going over your limit.
Third, examine whether the card charges a late fee and/or a penalty APR. Some issuers give the account a higher, penalty APR after a late payment, while others just charge a fixed amount that gets added to your balance. Some, however, do both. Penalty APRs, for the most part, don’t apply to existing balances, while late fees are immediately added.
4. Compare rewards
One of the most attractive features credit cards can offer is the rewards program. While most cards specializing in balance transfers won’t offer the most generous travel rewards (for those, check out our best travel credit cards list), they do sometimes offer perks.
Even those without cash back or points can feature benefits such as extended warranties or cell phone protection. These cards are often a better deal than one that only offers an introductory low-APR period.
Some of the best cash back credit cards, however, offer 12 to 18 months of 0% APR on balance transfers, along with introductory bonuses. Depending on your situation, these may actually be good enough (or even better in the big picture) than cards aimed specifically at balance transfers.
How to transfer a credit card balance
Transferring a balance between cards is fairly simple, especially now that many issuers include the option in their mobile apps and websites.
- Choose your new balance transfer credit card and apply.
- Find the balance transfer option on your new issuer’s mobile app or website — you can also call your issuer directly.
- Fill the information with your previous card information.
- Wait until the balance transfer is approved
Alternatives to balance transfer
Using a credit card to consolidate debt is a good option, but it won’t always be the best choice — especially if you can’t pay your remaining balance within the introductory APR period.
Here are some alternatives that can help you, depending on your particular situation.
Debt consolidation loans
A debt consolidation loan can help you pay off all your existing, high-interest debt and consolidate it into a single payment at, hopefully, a lower interest rate. In many cases, lenders will take care of the consolidation and pay the credit card issuers directly.
If this sounds like a good option for you, take a look at our best debt consolidation loans for some guidance.
Personal loans for credit card debt
There’s also the possibility of getting a personal loan in order to pay off credit cards and consolidate debt. Personal loans are typically low-interest when compared to credit cards, and are quickly processed — in fact, funds could be deposited in your account within 24 or 48 hours from approval. This can be convenient if you only need to pay off certain card bills or if you also need extra cash for other issues.
You can look at our best personal loans article to further examine if this route is right for you.
Make a plan to pay off your debt faster
If you can’t transfer your high-interest debt to a balance transfer card, and your current card has a high APR, it’s a good idea to devise a quicker repayment plan. Ways to do this include paying more than the minimum amount, using rewards as statement credits or looking for additional income.
Ask for a lower interest rate
You can ask credit card companies to lower your interest rate. The request could be approved if, despite your debt, your credit or FICO score has improved over time. This will help lessen the burden of interest charges while you pay off the debt.
Latest News in Balance Transfer Credit Cards
- High-interest credit card debt is tough on your finances and your credit score. If you’re looking for ways to pay it down, read one of our recent guides: What Will It Take to Pay Off My Credit Card?
- Credit card debt is at an all-time high and many Americans are applying for even more cards, whether to help with consolidation or simply acquire more purchasing power. Banks, however, are getting a lot more particular about approvals. Read the details of Why Getting Approved for a Credit Card Is Getting Harder (and What You Can Do About It)
- In addition to helping you consolidate debt or reduce interest charges, a new card increases your credit limit, which might boost your credit score and help other aspects of your finances. Read more in our article 3 Ways a Credit Limit Increase Can Help Your Finances Right Now.
- While the average credit score remains at an all-time high, it hasn’t increased since last year. Read why this was and what it means in The Average Credit Score Didn’t Go Up This Year — for the First Time in Over a Decade.
Balance Transfer Credit Cards FAQ
Balance Transfer Credit Cards FAQ
How does a balance transfer work?
What is the best balance transfer credit card?
Do balance transfers hurt your credit?
What happens when you transfer a balance on a credit card?
How We Chose the Best Balance Transfer Credit Cards
As part of our methodology to find the best balance transfer credit cards, we examined the 2022 U.S. Credit Card Satisfaction Study by JD Power, along with the following four factors:
Introductory period length. The length of time that 0% APR is offered is the main attraction of balance transfer cards. We mainly looked at cards that offered between 18 and 21 months (with the exception of rewards cards and those that had special features). We disqualified any that offered less than 15 months.
Variable APR. After the introductory period ends, the APR cardholders are left with is important, especially since some might not have yet paid off their entire balance. Lower regular APRs gave some cards an edge.
Fees and time limit. Balance transfer fees are important additional expenses to consider when transferring an existing balance over to your new card. We looked for cards that offered a lower 3% intro balance transfer fee, along with a longer period to make the balance transfer.
Rewards and perks. While balance transfer credit cards are not focused on the rewards, those that do offer perks tend to be a valuable addition to your wallet. If a card with a long intro period offers rewards or benefits such as purchase protection, it’s worth a deeper look.